March 2023

Preparation for Calculus: A Research Agenda

MAA Blog, Launchings, Teaching and Learning
Preparation for Calculus: A Research Agenda

In his latest Mathematical Association of America blog, David Bressoud shares the findings of Just Equations’ report, Staying the Course: Examining College Students’ Paths to Calculus and supports the report’s recommendation for further research on the use of Calculus prerequisites.

Just Equations has just published their latest report: Staying the Course: Examining College Students’ Paths to Calculus, authored by Marcelo Almora Rios and Pamela Burdman. It illuminates the difficulties of an important and increasingly common question:

For students who aspire to an academic major that requires calculus but who arrive at college with weaknesses in their mathematical preparation, how can we best support them so that they can succeed? …

The first issue is how departments should assess readiness for calculus. One does not want to push students into a course in which they are certain to fail, but undervaluing their readiness can be damaging in two respects. The first is what this does to their own sense of mathematical ability. For women and students in other traditionally underrepresented groups, the self-confidence needed to pursue a mathematically challenging major can be irreparably harmed by under-placement.

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